Key people



Few Old Testament personalities can compare in transparency with the prophet Jonah. We can see right through him. And most of what we see we don’t like. He reminds us too much of ourselves: fearful, selfish, spiteful, and proud.

Even when Jonah wasn’t physically running away from God, he was still resisting on the inside. He was quite capable of putting on a show of obedience to cover a seething internal mutiny. When he finally arrived in Nineveh with God’s message, he delivered it as a summary judgment. He offered no way of escape. Jonah flatly declared the city’s destruction.

Jonah knew (as he admitted later) that God was “a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love … eager to turn back from destroying people” (4:2). He hoped the Ninevites wouldn’t listen and was offended and resentful when they did. Jonah suffered under the painful mistake of assuming that he was the center of the universe.

Some people do not even think about God until they become angry. Discouragement, disappointment and disgust seem to clear away the haziness around God and we’re all too eager to blame him for our troubles. God bluntly confronted Jonah with the reality of his disobedience, the pettiness of his demand for comfort, and the sinfulness of his blatant disregard for others. The wonderful character of God that Jonah wanted to withhold from the Ninevites, he himself had been taking for granted.

Fortunately, God will be just as blunt with us. He will shatter our comfort if that will place us in the best place to meet him. As long as we are surrounded by our sense of control and importance, we will not know God as God. What has God done lately in your life to open your eyes a little wider?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Was sent (and finally went) to an enemy nation with God’s message

    • Survived an encounter with a large fish

    • Was instrumental in the repentance of the population of a huge city, keeping it from destruction

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Thought he could avoid God’s call in his life by running away

    • Thought he could avoid God’s call by sacrificing himself

    • Thought he could avoid God’s call by belligerent obedience

    • Thought he could nullify God’s call by sulking

Lessons from his life

    • God cares deeply for us well as for people we resent and hate

    • God will accomplish his purposes, even through reluctant and unwilling servants

    • God is patient with sinners and patient with his servants

Vital statistics

    • Where: Gath-helper

    • Occupation: Prophet

    • Relatives: Father: Amittai

Key verse

    • “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3).

Jonah’s story is told in the book of Jonah. He is also mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25; Matthew 12:39-41; 16:4; and Luke 11:29, 32.